The term "foxing" describes the process of deterioration on paper. Flip through paperback novels at a used bookstore and you'll find well-loved pages, yellowed around the edges. Brown spots stain chapters that haven't been read in decades; the first readthrough of undiscovered stories that seem so familiar. They're the kind of stories that are worth picking up because they're comforting — tales that feel as though they are well known to you even though you've never read them before.
Foxing is also the name of a rock band that hails from St. Louis, a band that retains a similar sense of familiarity even as it continuously evolves from record to record. On the group's newest album, the freshly released Draw Down the Moon, you'll be reminded of the band that first surfaced ten years ago, even though you've never heard Foxing sound quite like this before. On this outing, the band shrank down to a three-piece for its composition and tapped members of Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra for collaboration in its recording. The result is an incredibly ambitious record that is replete with the emo intensity that marked the group's early work, the danceable synth-pop grooves that have come to be part of its sound in more recent years and the arena-rock choruses that bring the band its moments of most visceral triumph, with slashes of unexpected dissonance to keep fans on their toes. The familiar elements are there, but the whole affair is bigger, grander. It fits in well with Foxing's oeuvre to date but distinguishes itself with its fully conceived maturity.
According to guitarist/vocalist Conor Murphy, it's not that the band is trying to reinvent itself. It's more accurate to think of it as a natural progression for an act that embraces its own evolution and growth with both arms.
"Every album that we put out, we don't try to do some kind of departure in any way. Like, 'OK, we're gonna flip it and make some new thing,'" Murphy explains. "The best thing to us is like when somebody says, 'Ah, I really didn't like your other albums, but I like this one.' I think that's honestly something that we're always really happy to hear, because we don't want to make the same album twice. Dividing an audience is something that's exciting to us."
The ambitious undertaking was matched with an equally grand rollout — one that saw the band creating its own Dungeons & Dragons-inspired puzzles to unlock exclusive content through its drawdownthemoon.org website; teaming up with Emmy-, Tony- and Grammy-award winning actor André De Shields in the music video for the album's title track. Foxing recorded a companion concert film at the Grandel, aired on-demand on the date of the album's release for just a 24-hour window.
"We try to implement a sense of theatrics to our music the same way we do when we perform live," Murphy says. "Trying to sincerely make something that is a spectacle to see live, and in the same way, something that is a unique experience to listen to."
In keeping, Draw Down the Moon is determinedly cinematic while entirely introspective. It's a grandiose affair imbued with a persistent sense of longing. That tone is driven by Murphy's deeply personal and cutting lyrics, like those of the self-titled track, a catchy tune focused on its protagonist's need to prove his commitment to the object of his affection. "I'm never gonna stop loving you," Murphy sings at the song's outset. "If I could, I would have done it by now." It's an album that knows that life is joyful, and also that life can suck so bad.
The writing process for Draw Down the Moon was jump-started when Murphy caught an episode of Joe Pera Talks with You, a show that may be even more wholesome than Ted Lasso. Part of Adult Swim's current lineup, the episode sees comedian Joe Pera — picture a 30-something man imbued with the sensibilities of Andy Griffith — narrating a scene in which he describes Stephen Hawking cheating on his wife. Looking at it from his perspective, Hawking feels insignificant as he looks off into the universe — so what does it matter if he cheats on his wife? But, on the other hand, his wife thinks that if the universe is vast and you found a perfect person that loves you and trusts you, then why would you cheat on them?
This concept, Murphy explains, inspired the themes of Draw Down the Moon — spurred on, of course, by the COVID-19 pandemic.